Sticking to the best-known luxury brands may induce some sticker shock even on the used market. But look over to some lesser-known models and you could end up with a car that is just as opulent and posh for far less money.
Here are five luxury cars that are relative bargains and the ones you should take a good look at if you’re in the market.
Marry the best traits of a Honda Accord with more features and a more premium design and you get the Acura TL. It’s the luxury sedan for those who also value common sense with indulgence.
The TL was typically pitted against the compact luxury sedan set like the Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series, but was significantly more spacious, being based on the midsize Accord platform. That affords it generous space for four adults, rather than the more cramped interiors of the German cars.
The third-generation TL, sold between 2004 and 2008, was an advanced vehicle for its time. Navigation, an ELS audio system and even Bluetooth phone functions were available. While these are relatively common features now, the TL made them available long before they were prevalent on other luxury cars.
The fourth-generation, 2009-2014 TL has a more controversial design and loses some of that refined subtlety of the earlier models, but offers optional “Super Handling All-Wheel Drive” to not only boost traction in poor weather, but improve the TL’s sporting prowess.
The CTS was introduced as the first significant sign Cadillac was reinventing itself as a German luxury sedan fighter, and on paper, it gets a lot right. A rear-wheel drive platform and a strong V6 engine mean the CTS has the classic luxury sedan formula in check. But the Cadillac’s calling card has long been the fact that it’s larger than the compact luxury sedans it’s priced against.
Inside, the CTS comes loaded with equipment in most cases. The second-generation CTS, built from 2008 until 2013, is especially nice inside with lots of details and a stitched dashboard long before it was fashionable in mainstream cars.
The V8-powered CTS-V is another hidden gem, with its powerplant ripped from the Corvette and offering a six-speed manual that makes it a bit of a brutal hot rod in the face of the more technically advanced BMW M and Mercedes AMG models.
In many respects, the Infiniti G beat the BMW 3-series at the game it invented. It takes a rather large, very powerful V6 engine and mates it with a chassis more befitting of a sports car. It just happens to have space for five people and their things.
The Infiniti is a sports car at heart, not surprising since it shares a lot of pieces with the Nissan Z sports car. And that makes it a practical buy for a driving enthusiast who is reluctantly growing up.
Interiors aren’t quite up to the best-in-class, but there’s a lot of equipment for the money. And the G cars were among the first out there to get lavish toys like navigation and a 360-degree camera system for parking.
Hyundai introduced the Genesis to prove it could build a luxury sedan without a premium label or a lofty price tag. And in 2008, it largely succeeded, because the first-generation Genesis sedan ticks most of the boxes a luxury car is required to do.
Think of the Genesis as that watershed moment Toyota had when it introduced the first Lexus LS 400, a car that proved Japanese automakers could build something that hits all luxury must-haves the Americans and Europeans offered. The Genesis boasts a quality interior and a quiet atmosphere, with the space German automakers would charge you far more for.
Sure, the styling isn’t much and the Genesis isn’t a performance sedan, despite a brawny available V8. The first generation is rear-wheel drive only, meaning those in the snow belt need to become friendly with a good set of snow tires in the winter. But as a luxury car bargain, the Genesis is hard to beat.
Volkswagen may also be a mainstream brand, but the CC actually does a good job of rivaling premium sedans costing more money. Introduced in 2009, the CC is really a last-generation Passat sedan in a more curvaceous body and with pillarless windows. But it feels like something much more special, and is a bargain once you consider that.
Because it’s based on the German-made Passat and not the version we get that’s U.S.-built, the CC feels like a traditional German luxury car inside. There’s a swath of nice materials and detailing. And on the outside, there’s styling more befitting of cars costing five times as much.
Models from 2009 until 2012 are strict four-passenger vehicles. The facelifted version, introduced for 2013, gets a conventional three-person bench for a rear seat, but don’t expect to accommodate much in the way of a person in that middle seat. Rear seat room is OK, but a lack of headroom makes it less than ideal. Most CCs get a perfectly adequate turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but some have a six-cylinder engine and 4Motion all-wheel drive.